Independence Day

July 4***

The birthday of the United States of America. It is celebrated on July 4 each year throughout the US as the anniversary of the day on which the Declaration of Independence (was adopted by the Continental Congress : July 4, 1776. The historic document in which the American Colonies declared their freedom from British rule.)

Events Leading to the Declaration

Friction between the American Colonies and Britain had been building for more than 10 years before the Declaration was adopted. During that period, the colonies had asked Britain for a larger role in making decisions that affected them, especially in the area of taxation. The British Parliament passed various tax laws and the colonies kept protesting for a long time. Finally the Parliament passed a law stating it had the right to legislate for the colonies in all matters.

1767. The British Parliament  placed a tax on certain goods imported into the colonies, colonial opposition led Parliament to remove these taxes in 1770 – except for the tax on tea.

1773 angry colonists boarded British ships in Boston Harbor and dumped their cargoes of tea overboard. Parliament then passed a series of laws to punish Massachusetts. These laws led the colonies to unite against what the y called the Intolerable Acts.

The Continental Congress

1774 delegates from all colonies except Georgia met in Philadelphia at the First Continental Congress, where they adopted an agreement that bound the colonies not to trade with Britain or to use British goods. They also proposed another meeting the next year if Britain did not change its policies before that time.

Britain held to its policies and the Second Continental Congress was called on May 10, 1775 in Philadelphia. By that time the Revolutionare War in America had already begun, with battles between Massachusetts colonists and British troops.

Congress voted to organize an army and a navy and to issue money to pay for the war. Many delegates now believed that independence from Britain was the only solution; others disagreed. Therefore the Congress sent a final, useless appeal to King George III, in July, to remedy the colonists’ grievamces.

The independence movement grew rapidly in 1776. On June 7 Richard Henry Lee of Virginia introduced the resolution in Congress “That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States…” It was the first time in an official document that the colonies were referred to as the United States of America.
Thomas Jefferson drafted the resolution in about 2 weeks. Benjamin Franklin and John Adams made a few minor literary changes.

Adpotion of the Declaration

On July 2, Congress approved the Lee resolution. The delegates then began to debate Jefferson’s draft.

On July 4, 1776 Congress adopted the final draft of the Declaration of Independence.

It was read to a large crowd in the State House yard on July 8, and eventually it was signed by 56 members of Congress.

Early and Modern Observance

July 4 1777  Independence Day was first observed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Declaration was read, bells were rung, bands played and the people rejoiced. It has been celebrated throughout the country since then.

Until 1783 the War of Independence dragged on, and in that year I-Day was made an official holiday.

In early days, I-Days were occasions for shows, games, sports, military music and fireworks. Fireworks and the firing of guns and cannons caused hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries each year. In the early 1900´s many people began to plead for a safe and sane Fourth of July. As a result, many cities and states passed laws forbidding the sale of fireworks. Some cities permitted fireworks, but hired trained people to explode them.

1941 Congress declared July 4 a federal public holiday.

Today many Americans simply call it the Fourth of July and they celebrate with picnics, patriotic speeches, fireworks and parades. In Flagstaff, Arizona American Indians hold a 3-day pow-wow around the 4th of July. The ship U.S.S. John F. Kennedy comes in full sail to Boston Harbor in Massachusetts.

*** In US Virgin Islands celebrations are held a week prior to the climax on the 4th of July.